Nov 30, 2012

Aveiro on a coldish afternoon

(Note: This post was initially part of a larger post, but I decided it made more sense to split it.)

Me and my boyfriend (I'll just call him B. from now on) enjoy loosing ourselves in longs walks through Aveiro. Below are some pictures I took this Sunday (late) afternoon.

Come walk with me... :)

Tiny carousel

Christmassy "Fogueteiro"

"Parceira do Ramo" is cold.

I am cold!

Colorful "Moliceiros"

Beautiful curvy lines of "Moliceiros"

Last daily reflections on the "Ria"...

It's Christmas inside!

It's Christmas outside!

Yep, it's Christmas outside.

Ok, I get it. It's REALLY Christmas outside.

Mmmmm... Roasted chestnuts ("castanhas assadas")...

Hope you enjoyed the walk.

See you soon :)

Nov 29, 2012

How can we help someone in extreme pain?

(Note: This post was initially part of a larger post, but I decided it made more sense to split it.)

Things haven’t been easy around here, in the last few days. Someone very close to me is suffering a lot (emotionally), due to a loss. This person is very fragile. I find myself trying to help the best way I can, but most of the time it just seems I can’t help at all. I realize that it’s easier to deal and be with my own pain…

How can you help someone in extreme pain? How can you show the person that life is still worth living? I’ve been struggling with these questions...

Nov 22, 2012

Walking depressive moods away

In the last few days my moods have been a bit darker than usual. I got used to scan my emotions regularly, because this (generally) prevents me from falling deep into the dark well of desperation without even noticing how I got there. So, whenever I feel the first symptoms of darkness (like the desire to just vegetate for long periods of time in front of the computer or in bed, and/or feeling a ball of sadness burning in my stomach), I try to do something different from my usual depression-enhancing strategies (which generally consist in actually vegetating in front of the computer or sleeping countless hours during the day).

I realized how spending most of my day working in front of the computer, not exercising (enough) and catching a minimum amount of daylight cannot be good. So, today, I went for a long walk, alone. I used to do this frequently, 3 or 4 years ago, but somehow I lost the habit. This time I decided to take my camera with me, and I’m sharing some of the photos with you. These were all taken in my small village (Fogueira – which means ‘bonfire’ – don’t ask me why!). The air was crisp, and the sky was (peacefully) blue. It did wonders for my mood :)

Fresh fields:

Colors of autumn:

Beautiful old houses:

(Fogueira has many beautiful old adobe houses. It’s a shame they are completely neglected…)


(Adobe is a traditional construction material in Aveiro region. Aveiro adobe bricks are unfired and made with arenaceous soil and lime. They are beautiful, highly ecological and sustainable!)

Signs of Catholic church:

(I'm an exception in Portugal, and wasn't born into a Catholic family. For many years I attended the Baptist church.)

Back home:

(Pictures taken in my parents' backyard.)

Ok, you can go now ;P

See you soon!

Nov 17, 2012

Procrastination tip: embrace imperfection

I’m very perfectionist - in a (frequently) paralyzing-miserable-draining kind of way. I have a hard time with errors, uncertainties, difficulties and, essentially, imperfection…

As a student:
- I was the one with glasses who studied insane amounts of time;
- I was the last one to leave an exam, begging the teacher for 5 more minutes;
- Many of my practical assignments were never finished because I spent too much time attending to details;
- I always had a hard time recognizing quality in anything I did. This made me work like a crazy person and eventually I ended up with good/great results – but at an enormous cost. In the end I was feeling exhausted and miserable.

With the PhD this perfectionist tendency reached new levels of insanity. I was no longer one among many other college students. I had been chosen to do a PhD. And I had a supervisor with his eyes on me, telling everyone how important my work was. And well... Basically, I froze. Perfectionism highly encumbered my work progress (and it still does, but not so frequently).

When I’m working on my thesis these are frequent thoughts:
- This piece of work is a mess! I can’t take this messiness. I better quit…
- I’m working so slowly… This pace is ridiculous! I should be doing this much faster. I might as well quit.
- I don’t know how to solve this problem. Omg! I’m such an idiot. I better quit.
- I need to revise this piece of work 10 times before it’s finished! I can spot so many imperfections…

Crazy, right?  Who can work with a mind like this? ;P

Eventually I had to learn to embrace error and imperfection. Look them in the eyes, and say: “You don’t scare me”, and “I can deal with you”, or “I can live with you”.

Learning to embrace the inevitable imperfections in my work has helped a lot in dealing with my procrastination tendencies. Not only in writing the thesis, but in many other activities I engage in – like writing blog posts :P, sewing, and even decluttering.

As Neil Fiore so wisely says – swap “I need to be perfect” for “I can be perfectly human”. How much more refreshing and liberating is the second alternative?

Life is, in itself, imperfect. Striving for perfection is, at the very beginning, a lost cause. Of course we can and should strive for quality – but without the weight of perfectionism, our labor has much more room for learning, creativity and fun! ;)

Do you have perfectionist tendencies? How do you deal with them? I would love to hear from you in the comments section :)

Note: I recently read another inspiring post on this subject. Check it out.

Nov 15, 2012

La Quimera

Today, a little inspiration, to not forget the flowers blooming right at our feet...

La Quimera 

Like children I walked to East, believing

I could touch the sun with my own hands;

Like children I walked through the round earth

chasing, far away, the solar chimera. 

I was at the same distance from the golden East

as much as I walked and walked again; 

So I did like children: feeling the uselessness of the march 

I picked up flowers from the ground, and started playing.

~ Alfonsina Storni ~

(Note: This is my own translation from Spanish, so it's far from perfect!)

Nov 12, 2012

My habit no. 1: a difficult relationship with mornings

As you may have noticed, in the last few days it has been harder for me to stick to my habit no. 1. Going to bed before 2 a.m. is much easier than waking up before 11:30 a.m.! In the first days, when the commitment was fresher, it was less difficult to get me out of bed – now it’s getting harder, and harder…

I thought that with the new ‘regularity’ I wouldn't need to sleep so much and that eventually I would begin to wake up a bit earlier, and actually feel rested – which, so far, hasn't happened. But maybe it’s too soon for that…

I wonder about the reasons for my sleepiness, and my difficulty in getting up at a ‘decent’ time. I think there may be three main reasons:
1) My depressive moods (one of the possible effects of depression is sleeping too much);
2) The fact that my mind doesn't seem to fully rest while I’m asleep (I have vivid dreams with complicated plots, and I frequently remember them in detail…);
3) The fact that I may still be suffering from the long-term side effects of Isotretinoin (I was subjected to an acne treatment in 2006 with powerful side effects – one of these side effects may be tiredness - and even depression).

The thing is, my apparent inability to ‘control’ my sleeping habits has a strong negative effect on my self-esteem and, consequently, on my moods – and this creates a negative cycle, with negative moods further potentiating my sleeping chaos.


Still, and so far, I was able to wake up before 11:30 a.m. 62% of the time, which is much better than my previous lower ‘success’ ratio (<5%) :P So, nonetheless, this has been a great exercise and I will continue doing my best :) And, of course, I will report on my progress regularly.


Now, let’s change the subject... :) 

I spent my Saturday sewing, and here is a picture of my new finished cover:

This one is going to the UK!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

See you soon ;)

P.S. I'm always delighted to hear from you in the comments section!

Nov 8, 2012

Lessons of frugality from my childhood (part 2)

(This is the continuation of my previous post.)


Until I was 13 we lived in an adobe house built by my great-grandparents in the late 40s (or early 50s), and which was slightly renovated by my parents - the house was in good condition, and so they just had to finish and paint the walls. This house had two floors – the ground floor served as a wine cellar for my grandfather, and the first floor was our home. As a side note, I live in a Portuguese region very well known for its good wine (‘vinho da Bairrada’), even thought I haven’t yet learned to appreciate wine :P And my grandfather produced wine to sell.

So, fortunately we never had to pay rent, and my parents were able to save money to build our own house. I believe I can say our first home was considerably small. Still, it was just enough for our family of 5. And I have such wonderful memories associated with this house… One curious thing is that when I dream (and I dream a lot - in vivid colors!) I’m almost always still living in this first house (even though I left it when I was 13) and I can picture all its rooms as if I just left it yesterday… My pink room with two pine beds (mine and my sister's), the small living room with the brown sofas, the blue kitchen…

After we left this house, it has served as the first home to my uncle and its family (until he built his own house), and it is now (after some rehabilitation) my grandparents home. So, still the same great principle of sharing resources within the family… :)


I’m very grateful for the fact that, in the 80s, Portuguese TV had only two (public) channels, one of which was advertising-free and more or less cultural, and that there was no cable TV. So, I didn't watch a lot of TV. Of course, I had my favorite children shows which I wouldn't miss (like this lovely one, which I recently found on YouTube – I confess, almost cried when I found it!) , but we didn't spend much time in front of the TV.


As I told in a previous post, buying books was not even an option. But I so eagerly loved to read, that I read a significant percentage of the books the mobile library brought to our village. And later, I would still rely on library books to satisfy my love for reading. And because my family knew about this passion, books were always welcome Christmas gifts ;)


One wonderful thing about children is that they see the world as a huge playground, and are always inventing new ways of having fun! So, not having many toys was never a problem. To begin with, my grandparents’ huge yard was like an adventure land – so many trees to climb or lay beneath, a small stream of water to play in, a straw hut to explore, an old house to play scary games, etc, etc. Wow. I just love having grown up in the country!

And within the house I remember playing lots of make believe games with my sister and cousins – and really, all that we needed was a little bit of imagination. I also remember drawing and writing stories, just for the fun of it :)


I guess I could go on and keep exploring the wonderful details of a simple childhood. But I believe you get the point.  Of course, this story is told through the eyes of the child that I used to be. I know my parents had their worries, but I also know that they, too, regard this as a wonderful time of our lives, independently of the money struggles.

I guess what I would like to take from this reflection is that with our basic needs met, and stripped of the materialistic expectations and demands our society so fiercely places upon us - and that we unthinkingly take as our own - , and with the openness and wondering eyes of a child, life can be beautiful and peaceful and lovely – and, of course, full of happy moments... :)

Nov 5, 2012

Lessons of frugality from my childhood (part 1)

As I told in a previous post, in my childhood we lived on a very tight budget. Well, it was the 80s, in Portugal. The country had been out of a dictatorship in the 70s, and life wasn't easy (monetarily speaking) for most people. My father is a schoolteacher and at the time teachers, in general, were badly paid. My mother worked in her parents’ small grocery store. In spite of the economical struggles, I remember a happy childhood, filled with good memories…

I thought it might be interesting to remember (and to share) some of the details of our simple (and happy) life.


Fortunately, we never lacked food. Still, we always ate at home. Always. I think I’m not lying if I say I never ate at a restaurant during my childhood/early adolescence (excluding, perhaps, at wedding parties). But food was always yummy, as my mother is a fabulous cook. And a great part of what we ate came from my grandparents’ 'farm'. Tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, green beans, figs, plums, persimmons, nuts, eggs, and even meat (this was a great opportunity to learn some new words in English – “persimmons” is just awesome :P).
When we had to eat out, we always took our packed lunch with us and had a picnic. It was healthy and a lot of fun!


In our family, clothing would pass from cousin to cousin, from sibling to sibling and even from aunt to niece. I only disliked wearing my older brother’s clothes. Excluding that, it was quite pacific. At school no one really noticed or cared about clothing, as we were all equally ‘unfashionably’ (but cutely!) dressed :P
We almost didn't have stores to buy clothing nearby (shopping centers had not yet arrived to our area) and so, sometimes, for special occasions, my mother would order a dress from the local seamstress. I always loved these dresses - so lovely and naive looking :P


I have great memories from vacations (except that time, when I was 6, and I lost my 2 year sister… - oops! - but don’t worry, she was found pretty fast). Happily, we live at about 30km from the beach. We would go camping for about 20 days, in a park near the beach. These were simple vacation plans, but on the night before leaving to the camping park I could not sleep with excitement! And we also had some getaways with the extended family, with picnics and a lot of play. All simple, but (at least from a child’s point of view) pretty fun :)
There were also some years where we couldn't afford to leave home. And yes, I know those years were not so fun. I filled my diary pages with: ‘Booooring!’ But a simple day out in a park or at the beach was enough to have me happy again. “Look diary, I made a drawing of the duck we saw at the lake! And look, here's a drawing of the cake I ate!!” (for those who may be wondering – I have my diaries since I was 8 years old, and it’s a lot of fun to (re)read them).


(to be continued!) - So, see you pretty soon :)

Nov 1, 2012

Finding your own voice

I've been rereading the book ‘I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was’, by Barbara Sher. It’s a wonderful book and I’m planning on reviewing it later. But now I just want to share a simple poem that is (partially) in this book (In chapter 8 – ‘I want something I shouldn’t want – it’s trivial or unworthy’), and which I find very inspiring. Perhaps you already know it, but it's always good to remind its beautiful and powerful message...


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -- 
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world, 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do -- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save. 

~ Mary Oliver ~